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Pets and Disasters

Make arrangements for your pets as part of your household disaster planning. If you must evacuate your home, it's always best to take your pets with you.

For health and space reasons, pets are only allowed in selected public emergency shelters. The key to preparedness is to plan ahead to ensure their care.

Before a disaster or emergency

Contact your local animal shelter, humane society, veterinarian or emergency management office for information on shelters available and other resources for pets or livestock in an emergency. Find out the locations of shelters for pets and livestock in emergencies. Also, see if your veterinarian will board or care for animals in an emergency.

If planning to travel with your pet, purchase a pet kennel or carrier that allows your pet room to stand up and turn around inside.

  • Train your pet to become comfortable with the carrier.
  • Use a variety of training methods such as feeding it in the carrier or placing a favorite toy or blanket inside.

If your pet is on medication or a special diet, make sure to check with your veterinarian for instructions for  emergencies:

  • Stock an extra supply of medications
  • Place an identification tag with your name, address, and phone number on each animal
  • If your dog normally wears a chain link "choker" collar, change this for a leather or nylon collar 
  • Keep your pet's shots current and have the records in your emergency kit
  • Most kennels require proof of current rabies and distemper vaccinations before accepting a pet
  • Contact motels and hotels in communities outside of your area and find out if they will accept pets in an emergency

When assembling emergency supplies for the household, include items for pets:

  • Extra food (dry or canned).Store the food in sturdy containers.)
  • Kitty litter
  • Large capacity self-feeder and water dispenser
  • Extra medications

Trained Guide Dogs

In most states, trained guide dogs for the blind, hearing impaired or handicapped will be allowed to stay in emergency shelters with their owners. Check with local emergency management officials for more information.

During an emergency

Bring your pets inside immediately. Animals have instincts about severe weather changes and will often isolate themselves if they are afraid. Bringing them inside early can stop them from running away. Never leave a pet outside or tied up during a storm.

If you evacuate and have to leave your pet at home, prepare a safe location for it and arrange for a caretaker or neighbor to provide food and water after the hurricane.

  • Leave food in a sturdy container that the pet cannot overturn.
  • Leave at least a week's supply of dry food (The food should not be moistened because it may turn rancid).
  • Put pet toys and blankets with the pet.
  • Leave water in a sturdy, no-spill container. Two water containers are better than one.
    • If possible, open a faucet slightly and let the water drip into a big container.
    • Make sure water bowls can't be overturned if the animal panics.
    • Large dogs may be able to obtain fresh water from a partially filled bathtub.
  • Replace a chain link "choker" collar with a leather or nylon collar.
    • Make sure the collar has tags and identification.
  • Separate dogs and cats.
    • Even if your dogs and cats normally get along, the anxiety of an emergency situation can cause pets to act irrationally.
  • Keep small pets away from cats and dogs.
  • If you evacuate and plan to take your pets, remember to bring your pet's medical records and medicines with your emergency supplies.
  • Make special arrangements that allow pet birds to eat daily. Birds must eat daily to survive.
    • In an emergency, you may have to leave your birds behind.
    • Talk with your veterinarian or local pet store about special food dispensers that regulate the amount of food a bird is given.
    • Make sure that the bird is caged and the cage is covered by a thin cloth or sheet to provide security and filtered light.

After an emergency

If after a disaster you have to leave town, take your pets with you. Pets are unlikely to survive on their own.

In the first few days after the disaster, leash your pets when they go outside. Always maintain close contact. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and your pet may become confused and lost.

Also, snakes and other dangerous animals may be brought into the area with flood water. Downed power lines are a hazard. The behavior of your pets may change after an emergency. Normally quiet and friendly pets may become aggressive or defensive. Watch animals closely. Leash dogs and place them in a fenced yard with access to shelter and water.

This page last reviewed on Aug 14, 2014 report errors on this page e-mail email this page print print 
Mississippi State Department of Health 570 East Woodrow Wilson Dr Jackson, MS 39216 866-HLTHY4U web@HealthyMS.com
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